15 October 2004
Tony Blair's vision of a radical reform of the welfare state during a third-term of Labour government, revealed this week, has been attacked by an influential think-tank.
Catalyst said the prime minister's plan to move from a welfare system offering basic public services and poverty relief to one providing high-quality services would prove 'ineffective' because Labour had failed to reverse structural inequalities.
Blair outlined his vision for a third-term welfare overhaul in London on October 11. He said Labour must create an 'opportunity society' where social mobility, which has remained stable in Britain over the past two decades, reaches the levels of the post-1945 era.
He rejected both the Conservative 'minimalist' approach to policy and the traditional Left-wing view that simply spending more on state structures results in quality of life improvements.
'On the foundations of economic stability and record investment, the third-term vision has to be to alter fundamentally the contract between citizen and the state. There need to be new and imaginative ways of funding some of the services on a sustainable and progressive basis,' Blair said.
But a Catalyst pamphlet, published on the same day, warns the government against a 'false displacement exercise'. It claims that Britain entered the twenty-first century with a wider gap between rich and poor than at any time since 1945.
Dr Ben Jackson, author of the pamphlet, later told Public Finance: 'Economic inequality matters because it is the biggest hurdle to social mobility.'
Jackson also warned that Blair's plan to improve mobility by freeing people for work through the universal provision of childcare must be carefully managed.
'Universal childcare coupled with British levels of inequality will not yield Scandinavian levels of social mobility,' Jackson said.